The federal government has released 54 Niger Delta fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), held in prison custody since 2010.
MEND in a statement yesterday, commended the government for the release of its former Commander, Mr. Tamunotonye Kuna. a.k.a ‘Commander Obese’ and fifty-three (53) fighters under his command, held at the Port Harcourt Prison without trial since December 2010.
The militant group said Mr. Kuna, voluntarily submitted weapons, gunboats and several items to the Joint Task Force (JTF) after being deceived that he would be a beneficiary of the amnesty programme and lucrative pipeline protection contracts.
The group said the fighter was subsequently arrested while the JTF lied to Nigerians that he was captured after an attack on his camp in River state.
MEND claimed that the militant’s prolonged incarceration was as a result of his refusal to become a false witness against Henry Okah in South Africa and his brother, Charles Okah in Nigeria.
MEND however called on the government to consider the further unconditional release of other MEND detainees held “on trumped-up charges” with alleged link to the group such as the Okah brothers.
The group however supports a prisoner exchange initiative with Boko Haram towards the release of the Chibok school girls, saying it is the only viable safe option and the threshold towards maintaining contact, further ceasefire and eventual long-term peace and security in that region.
“From our experience, it is impossible for any forceful Commando-type rescue in forests or creeks to be successful.
“The Israelis encouraging such a move should understand that Sambisa Forest is a different kettle of fish from Entebbe International Airport,” MEND said.